Lambeth Council is slashing spending on parks as it increasingly uses them for commercial events.
The park maintenance budget for the 2017 to 2018 period was £2.49million, down from £3.36million for the 2014 to 2015 period, a Freedom of Information request revealed.
Lambeth parks are increasingly being used for commercial or ticketed events, such as the Brockwell Park fireworks show or Christmas market Winterville on Clapham Common.
Kevin Murray, manager of Clapham’s Southside Cafe, said: “It’s just a little unfair on businesses.
“We seem to be paying more and more each year, costs just keep going up for the rent and we seem to be getting less and less services.
“We’re just getting no value for money, businesses are closing down left right and centre and it doesn’t make business owners confident about the future.”
Mr Murray, 37, added that while Winterville attracted crowds, they tended to stay within the event area, so there was little benefit to the local economy.
“It just seems that the council keep saying that they have less and less money but then they keep leasing out the park and doing other things with it.
“It seems that they are still getting their money, they just don’t spend it in the right direction,” he said.
When Lambeth announced that Winterville would be going ahead for the second year in a row, it sparked protests from residents.
Concerns included a large part of the park being closed to the public for nearly two months and the damage to the park grounds after last year’s event.
Open Spaces Society local correspondent Jeremy Clyne said: “Last time, it made a hell of a mess of the common and it’s never actually recovered, that area of the common is in a permanent state of degradation.”
Mr Clyne added that because park maintenance was not something seen as a statutory requirement by a lot of councils, it could easily be sidelined as a way to save money.
It was also very difficult to prove this service was not being delivered to the standard it could be.
“A park is vital as green land, it’s vital as an area of relaxation and exercise, particularly when our cities are becoming more dense and more crowded and many people don’t have gardens.
“It’s a vital resource and one that if we don’t look after, it can’t be recreated,” he added.
In a council meeting on 10 October, Councillor Sonia Winifred said Lambeth would be reviewing its events strategy, and it would be going out on consultation on this later this year.
Clapham resident Sarah Stovell said: “I just know that councils have a lot of pressures on. I work alongside children’s services, so if you me ask where should the funding should be, with children’s services or the park?
“Yes, we should be spending more money on the park, but if it’s not there, if there’s limited money, it should go into social care and children’s services first and then the parks have to be cared for by local people.”
Lambeth Council did not respond to a request for comment.
Feature image shows Kevin Murray.
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